As demand for food grows, we need to ensure the way we produce it remains as environmentally sound as possible. Farmers can now be guided by technology, to use earth’s resources like land and water in the most efficient way. It can also help them apply vital inputs like crop protection and fertilizer in the right amounts. This is called precision agriculture, and here 10 ways Farming First supporters are putting it to good use. Continue reading
Fish farming is a huge industry in Nigeria, but smallholder farmers face several obstacles. Elisa Burrows, Partnership Manager at Fintrac, writes how offering financing for them can open up a world of opportunities.
In the Kano and Sagamu regions of Nigeria, suitable water resources and high market demand mean that aquaculture presents a profitable opportunity for smallholder farmers to expand their farming activities. Yet few farmers take advantage of this opportunity because they lack the technical knowledge fish farming requires and because there are few hatcheries that supply fish to small-scale farmers. To help change this, Chi Farms, a Nigeria-based livestock and aquaculture business, is working with smallholder farmers – primarily women – to develop this business opportunity.
The market opportunity for fish farming in Nigeria is huge. Nigerians consume nearly 2 million tons of fish per year, and the country’s growing population ensures demand will continue to boom. Demand far outweighs current national production, making it necessary to import fish from all over the world. However, in recent years the price of imported fish has increased significantly because of the devaluation of the Nigerian naira. Even though fish is a key ingredient in many Nigerian dishes and an important and efficiently produced source of protein (for every kilogram of fish feed, a kilogram of fish is produced), only half the fish consumed by Nigerians is sourced locally. To increase local production, Chi Farms is partnering with Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, a Fintrac-implemented USAID program that invests in private sector partnerships to commercialize agricultural innovations in smallholder markets, to increase Chi Farms’ capacity to supply fish to farmers and build teams of aquaculture specialists to provide extension services. Continue reading
Fall armyworm. Coffee borer. Tomato leaf miner. These pests threaten harvests and livelihoods daily. Claire Starkey, President of Fintrac tells Farming First how her team works with farmers to create maximum pest resistance with minimal environmental impact using Integrated Pest Management, the latest agroecological approach to be explored in our “Agroecology in Action” series produced ahead of the Second International Symposium on Agroecology held by the FAO in Rome from 3-5th April 2018.
Agroecology is all about helping farmers to be good environmental stewards. At Fintrac, this is a core tenet of our work. Why? Because it is the ultimate triple win: for farmers, for consumers of the goods they produce and for the planet.
We know we need to protect the earth for future generations. But farmers also need to act sustainably to protect their shorter-term profitability: if they do not look after the natural resources they rely on, they will not get the yields they need to earn a living and feed their families.
Let’s say a family buys a cow. At first, the animal is producing plenty of milk. But over time, if the cow is not nourished properly, she produces less. The same analogy applies to crop production. When you first plant a seed, it may yield good results. But if you continue to reuse that same seed, it loses its effectiveness while also stripping the soil of essential nutrients, significantly reducing yields. That is why we focus so much attention on the transfer of good agricultural practices that protect vital water resources and build up soil health.
In other words, farmers optimize agricultural outcomes – and incomes – by following agroecological approaches that keep ecosystems healthy. And in the last three years alone, Fintrac has supported local partners in putting 630,000 hectares of land into sustainable production across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Another season, another pest
One of the biggest challenges facing the farmers we work with all over the world is the invasion of harmful pests. Notorious bugs like the fall armyworm right now in Africa, or the coffee borer in Latin America, show up season after season and threaten the food supply and livelihoods of vulnerable communities.
To combat this, Fintrac prioritizes and facilitates training in integrated pest management (IPM) techniques. IPM practices allow farmers to achieve maximum disease and pest control with minimal environmental impact.
It starts with prevention. Proper weeding and land preparation, along with planting natural live barriers, can go a long way to preventing pests from taking hold. Using pest- and disease-resistant seeds also sets farmers at an advantage. Once crops are planted, adequate crop nutrition and good water management practices help plants stay healthy. Regular health checks help detect any pest or disease infestation early.
But what happens, when despite our best efforts, pests do take hold? The first port of call is proper identification of the problem. We work with a network of field technicians that visit farmers to diagnose the issue and offer advice on how to take action when crops are affected.
Where possible, the next step is biological control, which can range from simple sticky traps to sophisticated microbial inoculants, which are referred to as “beneficial bacteria” that are developed from a crop’s natural enemies, such as bacteria, fungi and viruses. In Kenya, we worked with a local biologics company to train hundreds of vegetable farmers on the use of tuta traps to control a tomato leaf miner outbreak. These traps use a substance known as a pheromone to lure pests onto a sticky trap; a low-cost and safe method that helped farmers salvage what could have otherwise been a lost season.
Through a partnership with a Malawian company, we are promoting the use of microbial inoculants to promote plant health and boost resistance to disease or infestation. Our partner has so far distributed these Nitrofix inoculants to thousands of farmers across Malawi.
Unfortunately, in some cases, this is not sufficient. We then might need to use agrochemicals, which requires expanding the knowledge and capacity of both farmers and governments to handle them. We have helped public sector agencies to refine pesticide control measures for example, which not only protect human health and the environment, but ensure crops destined for the international market comply with standards such as minimum crop residue requirements.
For farmers, training in safe use is essential, including guidelines for chemical selection, application, storage and disposal. In Honduras, farmers were trained on how to triple wash and perforate pesticide containers, which were then collected by safe disposal service teams. One of those farmer clients, Emiliano Dominiquez, who had been in danger of having his food and income source wiped out by aphids, instead saw crop yields increase six-fold as a result of integrating IPM into his on-farm practices.
When the environment is healthy and productive, farmers can grow abundant food for their families and the global market. It is therefore essential we work to beat challenges such as pests and diseases with the most sustainable and sensible approaches we can to protect our planet. After all, it is the only one we have.
To celebrate International Women’s Day 2018, IFDC‘s Deputy Director for North and West Africa Oumou Camara blogs for Next Billion, sharing the stories of eight extraordinary women that have succeeded in bridging the gender gap in agriculture. Read the original post here.
Women account for more than 40 percent of the agricultural workforce worldwide but they own less than 20 percent of the world’s land, earning just a fraction of what their male counterparts do.
Jahanara Begum: Proof is in the profit in Bangladesh
In a country where less than 60 percent of women are economically active, female farmers like Jahanara Begum, 45, face negative comments and scepticism from their communities and even their families. But for Begum, the results spoke for themselves after she became a Farm Business Advisor and started selling vegetable seeds and other inputs like fertilizers, vermicompost and pest management tools to farmers with the support of PROOFS (Profitable Opportunities for Food Security), a Dutch-funded project led by iDE and partners. Jahanara used previous contacts in her network to her advantage – not only to reach 250 producer groups as part of the project, but to go beyond that to reach more groups in the remote riverine islands. She later took out a loan from a financial institution, overcoming social norms and gender bias to expand her business and strengthen her linkages with private companies. Her business track record ensured that the financial institution did not deem her too risky to give out the loan.
Esperanza Dionisio Castillo: Climbing the ladder in Peru
As Esperanza Dionisio Castillo rose up the ranks to become general manager of the Pangoa Cooperative, a cocoa growing union in San Martín de Pangoa, Peru, she found few other female role models to follow. She experienced greater scrutiny and mistrust in leading the cooperative as a woman. But after proving herself by bringing higher and more consistent incomes to rural families, Castillo wanted to ensure that other women found an easier path. So she offered rural female members support through health services, leadership training through the co-op’s Committee for the Development of Women and access to credit via social investment fund Root Capital.
Fatima Nadinga: Credit where it’s due in Burkina Faso
Accessing credit is often a challenge for smallholder farmers, and it is even harder for women. That’s why a USAID-funded project implemented by non-profit CNFA is training women in the “warrantage” credit mechanism. The system allows farmers to use their grain as collateral to obtain credit from a bank or microfinance institution rather than selling their harvest all at once. Under this system, farmers like Fatima Nadinga can deposit their crops and access credit to invest in their farms and generate more income, while also strategically selling their crops at the highest price.
Josefina dos Santos Lourenço: Give a little to get a lot in Mozambique
Josefina, a young Mozambican, had aspirations of owning her own business. But she wasn’t earning enough selling food at her small market stand to support her family. Her situation is not uncommon; women account for almost 90 percent of the work force in Mozambican agriculture, but represent just a quarter of the land owners holding official user rights. But Lourenço’s prospects improved when she was recruited by Export Marketing Company Limited, a major agricultural trading company, with support from Fintrac’s Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program. Lourenço received three training sessions in the first six months and a 50 percent discount on her initial inventory of inputs, like fertilizer and crop protection products for her input shop. She now serves almost 1,000 farmers and has become financially independent.
Lidia Grueso: Paying it forward in Colombia
In Colombia, where women make up 40 percent of the cocoa growers’ association COMCACAOT, Lidia Grueso, 41, has already overcome gender bias and prejudices to become a union manager. But the five-year-old association has still faced the challenge of accessing credit and loans for its members. USAID’s Rural Finance Initiative has helped individual farmers access loans, vouching for almost 375 of its members. This allows women to afford inputs like fertilizer to improve their business and to better pay the staff harvesting the cocoa.
Yinka Adesola: Field school founder inspires youth in Nigeria
After attending trainings sponsored by IFDC’s 2SCALE project, Yinka Adesola learned how to increase farm productivity with good agricultural practices and integrated soil fertility management. She was also taught business management strategies such as marketing and selling crops. She knew she needed to inspire others with what she had learnt. “I wanted to hold other trainings to attract more youth to agriculture, to show that agriculture is a lucrative business,” she says. Now, every three months, trainees from all around Nigeria come to her field school, the Entrepreneur Youth Multipurpose Cooperative, to learn vegetable production and farm management.
Ethel Khundi: Doubling down on diversity in Malawi
The impact of the gender gap in agriculture worldwide results in a yield gap of up to 30 percent because women are unable to access the same resources as men. But a Self Help Africa program in Malawi has trained female livestock keepers in conservation farming techniques that use zero tillage to safeguard moisture in the soil, allowing them to diversify their farms. As well as raising her pigs, Ethel Khundi, 36, has also been able to produce three times more maize, which was a valuable insurance when she lost her entire drove of pigs to swine flu. Instead, her maize harvest offset the losses and kept her on track to expand her home and set up a village shop.
Ruramiso Mashumba: Female agripreneurs on the rise in Zimbabwe
Agribusiness in Zimbabwe is dominated by men, of whom almost 70 percent are employers. Meanwhile, women are much more likely to work unpaid in agriculture than to be a paid full-time worker. Yet women like Ruramiso Mashumba are blazing a trail for more female agripreneurs. After returning to farming in Zimbabwe following her studies in Agriculture Business Management at the University of West England, Mashumba was elected as the national chair of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union Young Farmers’ Club in 2014. She also founded Mnandi Africa, an organisation that helps rural woman to combat poverty and malnutrition by empowering and equipping them with skills and knowledge in agriculture.
Learn more about the rural women filling in the gender gap in agriculture at farmingfirst.org/gender-gap, or follow #FillTheGap on social media.
This is the second post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture.
For Mozambican women who dream of building a business from the fields up, they are often thwarted at the first furrow: women account for just a quarter of official land owners.
Josefina dos Santos Lourenço had aspirations of owning her own business but she wasn’t even earning enough selling food at her small market stand to support her family. Though she believed in herself, she couldn’t find a way to put her talents to use increasing her income.
By Jessica Joye, Communications Director at Fintrac.
In Kenya, smallholder farmers lack access to financial services and face high barriers accessing commercial banks and community lending institutions. These institutions rarely approve loans to smallholders or have a slow turnaround time for approval, preventing farmers from getting capital when they need it in the agricultural cycle. Smallholder farmers not only face the improbability of loan approvals, but, even if approved, they often encounter hidden fees on top of already-high interest rates. To overcome these challenges, Fintrac’s Partnering for Innovation program is working with Musoni, a Kenyan microfinance institution, to pioneer and commercialize a digital model specifically targeted toward smallholders.
Musoni developed a model to reach high volumes of remote smallholder customers with an agriculture-specific “Kilimo Booster” loan. Village-based loan agents meet directly with farmers to discuss their credit needs and, using a cash flow software developed by the Grameen Foundation, can wirelessly submit farmers’ loan applications on the spot. Farmers don’t have to worry about traveling long distances to a bank or completing complicated applications requiring extensive documentation.
At many Kenyan banks, customers usually need personal or family connections in order to schedule appointments, making it difficult to inquire about loan or repayment details. In contrast, Musoni customers can receive immediate attention via walk-in appointments for any issue. Unlike many traditional Kenyan banks, Musoni wants to see its customers grow, and building personal relationships helps Musoni determine if and when customers are able to increase their loan amount or transition into other types of credit offerings. Although its interest rates are on the higher side, Musoni does not charge any hidden fees and customers have been willing to pay the higher rates in exchange for this personal attention.
Once a Kilimo Booster loan is approved, it is deposited into the customer’s mobile money account within 72 hours, ensuring farmers have timely access to the finance they need during specific times in the agricultural cycle. Musoni’s software also tracks customer information, including repayment information and changes in income, to make loan processing more efficient.
This client-focused approach benefits both customers and Musoni, which profits from reduced time needed to complete each application. Musoni also offers customers a mobile platform from which they can receive payment reminders and obtain other information about their loans, reducing the need to make visits to physical banking locations.
Michael Chege, a Kenyan farmer, also points out that “Musoni is flexible in case of disaster and willing to work with farmers to get payments in.”
In just 18 months, Musoni disbursed more than $6.4 million in loans to rural smallholders, proving its high-touch, efficient approach is gaining traction in the market. Musoni has built a reputation of valuing its customers, building relationships, and successfully applying digital technology to the smallholder market. By paying a relatively high interest rate, smallholder customers prove they place a premium on easy processes, personal and trustworthy customer service, and transparency.