Sheryl Cowan, Vice President of Programs at Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) Continue reading
In the Cuchumatanes Highlands in Guatemala, The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been supporting a rural community development project.
The project aims to improve the livelihoods of 22,000 families with incomes below the poverty line. A needs analysis demonstrated that one of the problems in the area was poor handling and application of crop protection products, leading to health and environmental risks.
As a result, IFAD formed a partnership with CropLife Latin America to provide training for the project beneficiaries.
A multiple approach was used: teaching Integrated Pest Management (IPM) concepts and proper, safe use of crop protection products to farmers and their families, school teachers and health workers; a one-year course for schoolchildren on environmental protection; training teachers on the benefits and risks of crop protection products; communicating to housewives the importance of washing farmers’ clothes separately so as to avoid contamination of other clothes and water supplies; providing information to health workers at medical and paramedical levels on treatments in the event of accidents; and the training of trainers to amplify the reach of the programme goals.
A similar programme has started in the Dominican Republic and plans are being implemented to expand it throughout Central America.
There are currently four IFAD-supported projects ongoing in Guatemala. Among them is a rural development project in the Western Region.
The target group comprises smallholder farmers, landless farmers, and microentrepreneurs and artisans. The programme will reach minority groups, particularly indigenous populations with lower educational levels and very limited access to productive resources.
For farmers in Guatemala, such assistance is needed as the country is facing the worst drought in 30 years.
In the lead-up to its High-Level Expert Forum in Rome this October, the FAO has issued a cautiously optimistic progress report on the state of the African agricultural sector, as reported in a recent article by Voice of America.
The FAO has calculated that agriculture has grown by 3.5% in 2008, largely due to better policies and more uptake of new technologies such as drought-resistant rice.
Keith Wiebe, FAO’s Deputy Director of the Agricultural Development Economics division, said:
After a long period of neglect, the importance of agriculture is becoming more clear to all of us. And that is resulting in improvements in some of the supporting services and infrastructure that are the real obstacle to improved growth in Africa.
Women are a key part of the agricultural workforce as they represent about 80% of those working in the sector. They will be expected to double food production in order to feed an African population that is set to grow from 770 million in 2005 to over billion by mid-century.
At the conclusion of their recent summit in Pittsburgh last week, world leaders warned that “sustained funding and targeted investments are urgently needed to improve long-term food security.’
Their final statement includes a series of recommendations related to food security and sustainable farming. Here are some quotes from the statement itself:
We called on the World Bank to play a leading role in responding to problems whose nature requires globally coordinated action, such as climate change and food security… (#21)
Over four billion people remain undereducated, ill-equipped with capital and technology, and insufficiently integrated into the global economy…. we call on the World Bank to develop a new trust fund to support the new Food Security Initiative for low-income countries announced last summer… (#23)
The World Bank and other multilateral development banks are also critical to our ability to act together to address challenges, such as climate change and food security, which are global in nature and require globally coordinated action… (#24)
The World Bank, working with the regional development banks and other international organizations, should strengthen its focus on food security through enhancements in agricultural productivity and access to technology, and improving access to food… (#24)
The poorest countries have little economic cushion to protect vulnerable populations from calamity, particularly as the financial crisis followed close on the heels of a global spike in food prices… (#34)
Even before the crisis, too many still suffered from hunger and poverty and even more people lack access to energy and finance. Recognizing that the crisis has exacerbated this situation, we pledge cooperation to improve access to food, fuel, and finance for the poor… (#38)
Sustained funding and targeted investments are urgently needed to improve long-term food security. (#39)
In July this year, the first of four undersea fibre-optic cables went live, connecting Africans along the eastern corridor to high-speed broadband internet. The lines touch ground in Mombasa (Kenya), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Maputo (Mozambique), and Mtunzini (South Africa).
This new cable should substantially reduce the time it takes to seek out information online, the cost of making calls abroad, and the technical obstacles which small-scale businesses have faced in launching data-heavy websites. Some experts speculate that it could also boost activity in commodity and stock exchanges.
The importance of infrastructure to economic development is clear. And for agriculture, this has traditionally meant the building of irrigation systems, of utilities, and of roads to markets.
Yet, in today’s world, a fast and reliable connection to information is also important for farmers. More severe and variable weather patterns as a result of climate change mean that farmers need better meteorological information and planting advice. Increasingly globalised markets require up-to-date information on prices and regulations abroad. And online marketing of crops can help cooperatives and other smaller-scale farm groups make more profit from the crops they grow.
In the past, Celina Cossa would queue for days and even nights just to get the chance to buy a bag of maize to feed her two children, her husband, and herself. She was one of thousands of Mozambican women finding it difficult to feed her family in a country that was newly independent from its Portuguese colonisers and in the midst of a civil war. Food shortages in Mozambique in the 1980s were a norm, and many – especially women – were extremely poor.