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
This is the first post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture.
With only 60 per cent of Bangladeshi women economically active, it can be difficult for those who want to grow a business to engage others. One of the major challenges that rural women often face is a lack of access to social networks, which hinders entrepreneurialism.
When Jahanara Begum, 45, started out as a Farm Business Advisor (FBA), she faced negative comments and scepticism from her family and community in Hizla Upazila, in the Barisal district.
But as her networks began to grow and bring together local market systems, she proved her doubters wrong.
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 >>
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 >>
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 >>
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!
This week in the #SDG2countdown to the High Level Political Forum in New York, we’ll be exploring SDG2.3, which is all about doubling agricultural productivity and incomes for smallholder farmers. Is productivity just about yield, or actually producing more with greater efficiency? Emily Karol from iDE explains how farmers they work with are producing more using less water and boosting incomes at the same time.
With the help of micro-irrigation technology, small-scale farmers are growing more food with less water—and making a profit doing it. In Vietnam, small-scale farmers who bought micro-irrigation technology use 30% less water and can double the productivity of their farm, leading to a median increase in annual income of $350.
Large agriculture companies often overlook small-scale farmers because they don’t see the market potential in selling to them. iDE, a social innovation organization, works to bridge the last mile between manufacturers and rural farmers. We use a market-based approach to build supply and demand for micro-irrigation technology at the local level—making the technology affordable and accessible to farmers who make less than $2 a day.
iDE has spread this approach across 11 countries, designing each model to the context of the country—employing a Farm Business Advisor model in some countries and in others a social enterprise strategy. However, the goal remains consistent: improve farmer livelihoods.
In Vietnam retailers carry many of the components to build an affordable micro-irrigation system. Instead of promoting a branded irrigation product, we developed a market around the idea of a micro-irrigation system, which allowed for flexibility and ongoing innovation in the way farmers use irrigation in different settings. To establish the market, we engaged local retailers to stock the components and educate their customers; we trained technicians to install the systems; and we coached farmers on how to use the technology with a variety of crops throughout the year. Our primary implementing partner was the local Farmers’ Unions.
Hua Van San, a farmer who lives in the Ninh Thuan province, learned about micro-irrigation through his Farmers’ Union.
“The soil is so sandy here, if you want to irrigate the whole garden you have to water it all day,” said Mr. San’s wife. “My son had to spend half his day helping me irrigate the garden on top of other farm tasks. He was too exhausted to do his homework and had to quit school.”
In 2010, Mr. San put his family’s most valued possession, a motorbike, up as collateral for a loan to purchase an electric water pump and sprinkler system. Moving away from the traditional furrow and ditch irrigation method to the tube and sprinkler system, Mr. San was able to use the space on his land more efficiently—allowing him to plant more crops closer together and increasing his yields. His family also spent 50% less time irrigating the crops.
“It reduced the burden of irrigation for my wife,” said Mr. San. “But, best of all, my son is free from watering and now he is back in school. He has more time for studying and fun.”
In 2012, Mr. San began cultivating asparagus, a high-value crop that he sells in the markets of Ho Chi Minh City.
“Last year was a very successful year for us,” said Mr. San. “We made $6,700 more profit than before—an amount we never dreamed of.”
With his additional income, he expanded his micro-irrigation system to cover an even greater portion of his 3,000 square meter farm. In just three years, his family earned enough income to no longer be identified as poor according to the government’s classification. Today, Mr. San is sharing his knowledge by teaching neighbouring farmers to grow asparagus.
Take the NEW quiz on SDG2.3 at www.farmingfirst.org/SDGs
In this guest post, the Chief Executive of iDE Europe details how technical assistance through a social enterprise is ensuring that drip irrigation is successful.
Without the right knowledge or necessary tools, poor farmers in Nicaragua have been unable to undertake a second growing season during the dry season. However, with micro-irrigation equipment and techniques, these farmers have the potential of doubling their annual production and incomes. Until 2010, their needs were ignored by the commercial sector, who failed to see these farmers as a large enough market for their products. This is the market gap that can be filled by a social enterprise, which exists not simply to make a profit, but to ensure that community and societal objectives can be met. In Nicaragua, that gap is being met by iDEal Tecnologías. Continue reading
23rd August 2015 11.00 – 12.30 pm CET
This World Water Week, iDE will convene a side event on bringing drip irrigation to smallholder farmers, bringing together key stakeholders from the drip industry, NGOs, donor agencies, finance, and scientific institutions to discuss how they can bring –in a concerted effort – suitable and affordable drip irrigation technologies to smallholders. The conveners of the seminar will present on the current landscape of the drip irrigation industry, their perspective on the challenges and solutions mentioned above, and discuss the potential for collaboration across sectors and organizations. Continue reading