Stories tagged: ypard

Jhannel Tomlinson: Feeding the Appetite for Sustainable Tourism

In this guest blog, Jhannel Tomlinson, YPARD country representative for Jamaica, looks at the potential for growth in agro-tourism as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism gets under way. 

For the tourist hoping to experience authentic local cuisine on one of our famous golden beaches, they may be disappointed to know that only a small fraction of food in our hotels is provided by local farmers and fishermen, with the majority being imported from areas outside the Caribbean basin. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in quality and quantity of produce, natural disasters and limited access to inputs mean that our farmers are unable to meet the aggressive demands of the sector.

However, despite these challenges, there is a way for farmers and foreigners to take advantage of the fruits of our lands. Agro-tourism, a niche but growing market within the tourism industry, offers tourists an authentic experience embedded in local food and culture and combines “rural aesthetics” with agricultural production into a dynamic tourist package. It gives the traveller the opportunity to delve into environmental, cultural and agricultural activities. And, often nestled in verdant areas of low commercial development, the farmer can also create revenue. This seeding of the linkages between agriculture and tourism can be an opportunity for farmers who have been “left behind” to utilise their livelihoods to the benefit of themselves and their communities.

Strengthening the link: Tourism and agriculture

Nutrition, health and wellness are among global trends that have spurred the growth of agro-tourism, and the Caribbean is especially poised to take advantage of these benefits, given its climate produces a continuous growing season. It makes it easier for visitors to witness the movement of produce from “farm to fork”. For example, the Belmont Estate, in Grenada is a fair-trade certified business which offers a tour of the plantation where visitors are able to witness chocolate production. Woodford Market Garden, a small organic farm in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, also provides a guided tour of its plant nurseries, open field plots and edible garden. In realizing this potential, policymakers across the Caribbean have formulated a regional strategy which seeks to provide the visions, goals and targets necessary to capitalize on the opportunities available to both tourism and agriculture. As a result, many institutions have been able to provide unique services to their guests effectively and have further been able to maintain successful and sustainable business models.

Yet despite these accomplishments, there is a specific group that represents an even greater opportunity for growing sustainable agriculture: youth.

The role of youth in ‘A-grow-tourism’

As in many parts of the world, the number of young people considering a future in agriculture sadly remains low, with many put off by the high risks and low levels of investment. Nevertheless, there are several worthwhile initiatives to help young people enter agriculture. The Caribbean Agriculture Forum for Youth (CAFY), the FAO/FIDA-Youth Caribe, the 4H Initiative, YPARD Country Chapters and IICA’s Virtual Business Incubator and Resource Hub for Caribbean Youth are among the programs and platforms that provide information and knowledge to young farmers and agropre- neurs across the Caribbean on the essential steps to becoming involved in and creating agriculture-based businesses.

And young people have a crucial role to play in helping to build the growing agro-tourism industry. With the majority of the world’s food being produced by ageing smallholder farmers, the next generation are more likely to adopt new, innovative ideas that have the potential to attract touristic interest and investment. Technology is one of the greatest tools of youths and Tech4Agri, a youth driven online media startup based in Trinidad and Tobago, is a testament to this. The platform helps realise the multitude of technological applications in agriculture and supports the development of young agropreneurs by providing an interesting and innovative agri-information service. Young agropreneurs could also develop similar platforms to promote agro-tourism, utilizing the internet for activities such as video blogs showcasing testimonials, meal preparations and on-farm activities, which can then be the basis for their marketing strategies.

Soaps, oils and lotions from the Yaphene line

Soaps, oils and lotions from the Yaphene line

The youth of the Caribbean is also perfectly placed to capitalize on the beauty and tranquility associated with agro-tourism, showcasing their talents in creating natural, organic, beauty treatments from the “fountain of youth”. Yaphene, a gourmet boutique based in St. Kitts, makes organic hair and skin care products using natural butters, oils, dried and fresh herbs and its vision is to become the island’s premier natural beauty product producer. Ibis Beauty Box is another modern, natural botanical skincare line that embodies the rich heritage of the Caribbean. Its inspiration stems from the indigenous and local Caribbean flora and the urge to create an extraordinary natural, organic and lifestyle brand.

While technology and beauty are important factors to consider, guests are often most intrigued by the delicious dishes that form the gastronomic component of agro-tourism. Taste of Eden, a business located in Paix Bouche, a village in Dominica, produces green seasonings and herbal tea bags. Tahomey Chocolate Company based in Haiti provides ongoing income for an estimated 50 people, and Dada B’s, a Jamaican based business in value-added agricultural products is seeking to become one of the Caribbean’s largest agricultural producers and food manufacturers (Caribbean 360, 2016). All three businesses are currently owned by young agropreneurs who stand to benefit from tourists’ desire to experience food being moved along the chain from the farm to final packaging. Chefs for Development, an effort being spear- headed by IICA and CTA further seeks take advantage of this by training young local chefs in both using and promoting local ingredients to prepare high quality dishes. Given such start-ups, it is evident that not all youth across the Caribbean have given up on agriculture; many are putting their time and effort into realizing their dreams. For the unconverted youth however, it is important to promote a change in the way agriculture is currently being perceived by increasing the awareness of different subsectors such as agrotourism and the opportunities that these markets hold for the youth.

While sensitization and improving awareness of opportunities are critical, targeted training will also prove useful in building skills in the sub-areas related to agriculture. Such training may encourage the youth to be more involved as it helps to view agriculture as more than just a mere farm but as a viable business. For these businesses to be able to materialize, governments should invest in their young agropreneurs by producing incentives, low interest loans and startup capital to these young business enthusiasts. Paolo Silveri, IFAD’s Country Programme Manager responsible for the design of the FAO/FIDA-Youth Caribe programme, said: ”With youth unemployment rates that are among the highest in the world, reinventing the role of Caribbean youth in agriculture is critical both for the region’s future and, more importantly, for young women and men themselves.”( FAO, 2015).

Agrotourism could well hold the greatest potential to increase the involvement of the youth in agriculture, opening up innovative and creative opportunities to build successful and sustainable businesses. Where there is a supportive environment, the youth will be able to find groundbreaking ways to create a future for themselves while contributing to the overall well-being of their communities.

Photo collage credit (l-r):
Belmont Estate IICA/CTA,2015
Fermented beans on display during the chocolate tour at Belmont Estate
Woodford Market Garden Woodford Market Garden, 2016
Lush green vegetables in the gardens at Woodford
Yaphene Yaphene n Flauriel Foods, 2016 
Soaps, oils and lotions from the Yaphene line

#IamAg! Meet Ivan, an Agronomist from Serbia

This is the sixth post in our series “I am Agriculture”, that showcases the many careers available to young people in agriculture. Today’s post comes from Ivan Tupajic, an agronomist who works at a plant breeding station in Serbia.

My family and I live in a small and beautiful town of Kosjerić in Western Serbia, but my parents come from the countryside. That’s why we’re “weekend farmers”, as I like to say. Our estate is located not far away from the town and I have been doing agricultural work since I was a little child. I have always been in touch with agriculture, and beside farm animals that we keep, we also produce raspberries and process plums.

Continue reading

Courtney Paisley: Pairing Youth with Experience for Agricultural Renewal in Kenya

In this guest blog post, Courtney Paisley, Director of Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) shares the stories of success from young Kenyan agriculture enthusiasts who have taken part in a pilot mentoring program.

Switch your eyes and ears off, for a moment, to the on-going discourse about agriculture as an “ageing sector” that doesn’t attract the youth anymore. Instead, step into YPARD: a vibrant international network of young professionals for agricultural development, which counts thousands of members all around the world,

We are living in an era in which rapid urbanization has led to a decline in rural populations, and for the first time ever the majority of the world’s population lives in a city. The UN World Health Organization predicts that “by 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people”. This means that more young people than ever before are moving to cities and towns to find work, leaving few behind to work in rural areas. Continue reading

Meet the Prize-Winning Young Agripreneurs at GCARD3!

This week marks the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Development, jointly organized by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and CGIAR Consortium.

To bring youth into the discussion, six young agripreneurs have been awarded a US$5,000 seed fund to facilitate the startup of their agribusiness project, and will be attending the conference in Johannesburg to receive their first induction training and network with agriculture experts from all over the world.

For the next year, these agripreneurs will be will mentored by Farming First supporter YPARD (Young Professionals for Agricultural Development) – who will train them on new ways to advocate and network using innovative communication and networking tools.

Meet the finalists and follow the discussion using #GCARD3! Continue reading

Hudson Shiraku: Farming in the Wake of Water Scarcity in Kenya

This World Water Week, young Kenyan Environmental Scientist Hudson Shiraku tells Farming First how farmers in Kenya are overcoming water scarcity in a variety of ways. This article is part of our ongoing partnership with Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD)

My hometown Kakamega, is endowed with predictable rains and ever-flowing rivers supplying water all year round. Many people have therefore taken this availability of water for granted and are shocked when they hear of other people suffering for lack of it in other places. One such place is Machakos in Eastern Kenya.

Machakos is one of the areas susceptible to frequent and prolonged droughts. Lack of irrigation facilities, inadequate policies and abject poverty have all subjected residents of some areas in the region to a complete dependency on food assistance. This problem has been further exacerbated by climate variability and climate change, causing more or less precipitation in different regions and more extreme weather events. Cognizant of this challenge, the Biovision Farmer Communication Programme (FCP) has been training farmers on sustainable and effective use of water resources to make farming possible in the face of water scarcity. It promotes different technologies to make this happen. Through the field-based workers, FCP conducts farmer training and demonstrations on how to use certain technologies such as;

Mulching: Mulching uses plant remains such as leaves or grass to cover the soil between rows of cultivated crops. Mulching compliments irrigation by reducing the impact of water on the soil – reducing soil erosion and allowing longer retention of moisture. Mulch improves the condition of the soil since this mulch slowly decomposes, becoming part of the soil organic matter. Mrs. Mutisya, one of the farmers practicing mulching, says that since she started mulching, she now uses a mere quarter of the water she previously used on her kale plantation.



Drip irrigation: Another technology being promoted in the region is a watering system that delivers a slow moving supply of water at a gradual rate directly to the soil at the base of crops (drip irrigation). Also referred to as micro-irrigation or trickle irrigation, it consists of a network of pipes, tubing valves, and emitters. Bottles are also filled with water, a small hole pierced at the top and then inverted and buried at the base of a plant to allow water to seep to its roots gradually. This is an economical use of water, as there is reduced evaporation and deep drainage compared to other types of irrigation such as flood or overhead sprinklers, since water can be more precisely applied to the plant roots. Farmers have also reduced disease prevalence due to this technology.

Drip irrigation technology

Drip irrigation technology

Water harvesting: Besides teaching our farmers how to sustainably use their water, we also train them on water harvesting technologies, to avoid water flowing to waste when it rains. We teach farmers the importance of capturing water runoff from the road for agricultural use. Fixing gutters on iron roofs is also important for water harvesting. The benefit of water harvesting is not only to secure and increase crop production in these regions, but also to stop soil erosion and recharge aquifers tapped for irrigation. It also improves soil fertility due to deposition of humus, silt, manure and other organic matter together with harvested water.

Agroforestry: Trees also play a vital role in agriculture. Practicing agroforestry using drought resistant trees species has helped to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy, and sustainable land-use systems. Besides providing shade to the crops, these trees are important sources of fruitsnuts and edible oils which counter global warming and the risk of hunger in the region. Trees in agroforestry practices catch, store and release water. Trees break the force of falling rain – preventing soil erosion and allowing percolation into the ground where it is stored as groundwater.

A multi story garden

A multi story garden

Multi-storey gardens: One of our farmers discovered that it is easier to water and maintain plants in a sack. She fills a sack with soil and then uses it as her land. It is easier to water it and accommodates more crops. This technology not only saves on water but also on other resources like fertilizer.

This and other technologies that we promote have since spread to other farmers through our farmer to farmer sharing systems. Farming has been made possible in the wake of water scarcity, and many people are adopting agriculture in the rural areas of Machakos. Thanks to these water saving technologies, farmers have increased crop production and a steady supply of agricultural products all year round. This has in turn cushioned them against the pangs of hunger.

Thanks to a steady supply of water, they have also been able to produce in surplus for the market earning some income. Generally, enabling people to farm has improved the food security situation in the region as there are more farmers than before. Trees have been incorporated in the crop production lots changing the entire picture of a dry area with scorching sun to a better environment.

There are more areas affected by water scarcity and struggling with agriculture. There is need to spread the benefits by these water saving technologies to them. We need to learn from these FCP experiences and replicate them in such areas. Having a database of all these technologies in ready to access and understand formats would help in sharing their benefits.


Madhu Sudhan Ghimire: Getting Nepal on the Road to Resilient Recovery

In this guest blog post, Madhu Sudan Ghimire, an agriculture student from Nepal urges for action to be taken to support rural communities and farmers, to avoid a food crisis in the country following the recent earthquake. This post is part Farming First’s ongoing partnership with the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) network,

It was Saturday 25th of April 2015: a normal day when my country was celebrating the weekly public holiday. Everything was fine until an earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale shook Nepal at 11:56 am local time killing thousands of people in a flash. Many more were injured, nearly half a million houses were destroyed completely and some 3.5 million people are now in need of food assistance. All sectors of the country’s economy have been hit hard by the quake, according to the US Geological Survey the economic losses could be as much as $10bn. However the sector that depends on the seasons and the natural resources – agriculture – will be worst hit.

The agriculture sector employs 70 per cent of the population affected by the earthquake, and accounts for more than 35 per cent of national GDP. The 14 affected districts account for almost 10 per cent of national output of rice, and almost 20 per cent of national output of maize. Although damage to the agriculture sector has not yet been assessed, affected families have likely lost livestock, crops, food stocks and valuable agricultural inputs. The disaster has destroyed markets and infrastructure, including roads and crucial irrigation and drainage canals. As a result, internal trade, including the movement of emergency aid, is severely constrained.

Nepal’s estimated wheat production in 2015 will now be much lower than the forecast 1.8 million tonnes. Farmers who miss the planting season that is expected to start in late May will be unable to harvest rice – the country’s staple food — until late 2016. This, together with likely losses of food stocks and wheat and maize harvests, will severely limit food supplies and incomes in the South Asian country.

Prioritising Resilient Recovery

In meeting the agricultural needs of communities, interventions should be phased and designed appropriately to support and promote resilient livelihood recovery. This means not only focusing on the effects of this earthquake, but rather having a comprehensive approach to reduce the vulnerability of households to other more frequent hazards, such as landslides, floods, droughts, pests and diseases.

The following are several areas that could be prioritized in agricultural recovery programmes to promote resilient recovery.

Seed and fertilizer availability: Seeds for millet must be made available for farmers, to avoid a further threat to household food security from October onwards. Much of the rice, maize and millet crops in storage in these districts has been destroyed, and the rice planting window is nearly over. Making good quality seed and appropriate fertilizer available to farmers in order to grow millet and vegetables which can be planted now, will be key.

Agricultural Tools, Fertilizer and Labour: The proportion of agricultural tools destroyed is particularly high in the six affected districts, and this will seriously reduce capacity for cultivation. Household access to fertilizer reduced, further threatening production prospects in the summer cropping season. A steep reduction in labour availability for agriculture is apparent as households struggle to meet more urgent shelter needs for themselves and their livestock – this must be addressed.

Shelter and veterinary services for livestock: Livestock ownership is a major contribution to agricultural livelihoods; in Nepal 80 per cent of households own animals. Up to 16 per cent of cattle and 36 per cent of poultry was lost in the quake, with many more animals injured and sick. Animal health is at risk due to lack of shelter and feed and limited access to veterinary services. Production of animal products has been reduced due to stress syndromes and deteriorated health conditions, affecting household consumption and income earning. The provision of veterinary services could combat this. Recovery of shelter, support to feed and water livestock access will need to continue beyond the next three months. Restocking of livestock will become necessary and appropriate once the health conditions of surviving animals can be guaranteed and households can access sufficient feeding.

Agricultural Infrastructure: If not repaired quickly, damage to small-scale irrigation will have significant negative consequences on crop production in the winter cropping season. Damage to Agricultural and Livestock Service Centre buildings and facilities will seriously affect the ability of extension staff to provide technical services to farmers.

Lack of funding for agriculture and inadequate manpower may hamper efforts to provide immediate support to affected populations. But the government, as well as international community, must give equal priority rural and urban areas – as it will be the rural areas producing the food for the rest of the country. We must act now to prevent a food crisis for Nepal in the future.