The Humble Banana Transforms an Entire Community in Eastern Zimbabwe

By Doreen Hove, Adam Silagyi, Emma Siamena | USAID – Zimbabwe | Dec. 18 2017


Once these farmers learned to turn their banana crops into commercial enterprises, word spread to their neighbours — and so did the economic benefits.


 

It is early morning in Murara, a small rural community in the Honde Valley. Many farmers are hustling and bustling, loading large bunches of bananas onto trucks headed for Harare, the capital city, while others are tending to their fields.

Bananas grow well in this part of Zimbabwe with fertile soil, consistent rainfall and warm average temperatures. However, prior to USAID support in this region, bananas were primarily produced by subsistence farmers using poor agricultural practices and sold to informal markets that paid a fraction of a fair price.

Jane Mukupe, a 60-year-old banana farmer, used to be among that group. Like most of the small-scale farmers USAID supported, Mukupe Started her business with an initial investment of 200 improved variety banana plants valued at $200 and some fertilizers for her 0.1 hectare (0.25 acre) lot. That was in 2012.

Over the past five years, Mukupe has transformed her business. Nowadays, her day starts at 5 a.m. when she happily attends to more than 3,000 plants on 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres). Her income has increased exponentially from roughly $70 per month in 2012 to $1,500 per month in 2017.

Mukupe is very happy about the changes that have taken place in her life.

Jane Mukupe is now a community role model for women. Today she happily attends to more than 3,000 banana plants on 1.5 hectares (3.7 acres). / Doreen Hove, USAID

“I am a widow,” she explained. “My husband died in 1980 leaving me to take care of my three children. Before I became involved with USAID, I was farming beans, maize and only a few bananas. I also had several goats and was knitting jerseys, but I didn’t make enough money to take care of my family.”

Mukupe said she thought she was too old to participate in USAID’s project, but her late husband’s brother encouraged her to sell her goats to buy banana.

“It was very difficult for me to sell my goats since they were my source of livelihood. But when I look back today, I do not regret selling them,” Mukupe says. “Joining the project was the best decision of my life. I didn’t have a chance to go to school, but look at how successful I am now.”

Now a community role model for women, banana sales have allowed Mukupe to renovate her house and build a second home in the main town of Hauna. And, she purchased more goats.

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Jane Mukupe’s renovated kitchen. Income from bananas enabled her to renovate her kitchen and make it more modern. / Doreen Hove, USAID

Mukupe is just one of 600 banana producers who received technical assistance in agriculture techniques that transformed their farming practices and increased their production and incomes. Because those farmers passed on their knowledge to others in their community, today — two years after USAID’s project ended — there are over 5,000 commercial banana farmers.

The average banana producer is earning approximately $4,200 per year from 0.4 hectares (1 acre), or 800 banana plants. Before USAID interventions farmers were paid low prices due to lack of formal markets and harvested very low yields, the average banana farmer earned less than $200 per year.

A proud female farmer stands in front of her banana farm. / Doreen Hove, USAID

Mary Maparutsa has been a community leader of Murara for more than 20 years and has seen how the project changed lives: “People were not planting bananas on as large a scale as they are today and accepted low yields and low prices because they did not have access to proper production practices, transportation or formal markets. They sold their bananas on the roadside to middlemen that purchased their bananas at a low price and sold them at much higher prices, taking advantage of the small-scale farmers.”

“These middlemen controlled the price because the small-scale farmers had poor yields and no understanding of markets.”

A New Hope

Throughout Murara, a 30-ton Brands Fresh truck is loading bananas from different pick-up points to transport them to Harare, the capital city, for distribution to supermarkets across the country. Brands Fresh is a Zimbabwean buyer active in this area and was the first to be linked to USAID beneficiaries. Now there are several more, and competition among buyers has allowed for more competitive prices that benefit both producers and consumers who have access to better quality bananas.

Throughout Murara, farmers load their bananas onto 30-ton trucks. The bananas are then transported to Harare. / Doreen Hove, USAID

“Currently, bananas are purchased from $0.26 per kilogram for smaller graded fruit and up to $0.32 per kilogram for the largest grade, which is nearly three times higher than the prices before the project,” said Fintrac’s Mark Benzon, who was the banana project’s manager.

Brands Fresh and other buyers have improved the value chain by addressing the transportation problem, which resulted in collecting the bananas at points in close proximity to the farmers’ fields. “Each month we fill up about six 30-ton trucks on average,” says Edward Madewekunze, the local Brands Fresh agronomist. He added that Brands Fresh could easily purchase eight 30-ton trucks of bananas per month, so there is definitely room to grow.

Small-scale farmers now have enough income to buy pipes to connect to water that will irrigate their bananas. / Doreen Hove, USAID

Elias Zvawanewako, another small-scale farmer, said he and others like him used to harvest dismal yields. “We used to individually produce around 30 to 50 kilograms of bananas per month, but now monthly yields over 1,000 kilograms are common. Today, even if you produce a ton of bananas, you feel it’s not enough,” he explained.

Banana production in the area has gone from roughly 2,000 tons in 2011 to more than 27,000 tons in 2017, contributing more than $7.5 million to the rural economy every year.

“Before Zim-AIED, lending institutions were not interested in working with Honde Valley farmers because of the low prospects of successful loan repayments, as income levels were still very low,” said Benzon, referring to the project by its acronym.

Farmers attend to their banana plants. / Doreen Hove, USAID

USAID introduced farmers to Virl Microfinance in 2011, and since then, the lending institution has provided $567,000 in input loans to more than 1,100 farmers. “Bananas have become the main cash crop in Honde Valley, and as a result, more than five banks and microfinance institutions have opened their doors to farmers and created loan packages that meet their needs,” Benzon says.

A Bright Future for Youth

Schools are alive with energetic children, many of whose parents are now commercial banana farmers.

The headmaster for St. Peter’s Mandeya Primary School, Tendayi Musoro said, “Since banana farming started, there has been an increase in the number of children who come to school. Farmers are able to keep their children in school and provide them food and clothes.”

St. Peter’s Mandeya Primary School now has a new classroom block, thanks to the incomes from banana farmers. / Doreen Hove, USAID

After years of economic stagnation, many Zimbabweans left the country to look for work. There is no evidence of young Zimbabweans returning to Honde Valley to take up farming.

Twenty-seven-year-old Amon Zvawanewako returned home from working in South Africa after learning that his family and friends were earning good incomes from small-scale banana farming. Zvawanewako is now a successful banana farmer, earning more than he ever did abroad.

Other entrepreneurial youths are taking advantage of this new industry by starting their own farms and providing instruction to others interested in banana farming. Judah Mukupe, 26, Isaac Kambanje, 32, and Michael Mukupe, 32, are three highly motivated young men who were trained by USAID on good agricultural practices for banana farming. They are now training and assisting other farmers to harvest and load their bananas for a fee.

Amon Zwawanewako and his friend are among the youngest banana farmers in Murara. Zwawanewako returned home from working in South Africa after learning that his family and friends were earning good incomes from small-scale banana farming. / Doreen Hove, USAID

“We noticed that many more farmers wanted to commercialize banana farming and we jumped at the opportunity to train them and earn some income,” said Kambanje. “We earn up to $280 a month through all these small jobs and are slowly starting our own banana plantations. I now have 200 banana plants, and my target is to have about 1,000 banana plants by the end of the year.”

Many other small- and medium-sized businesses, such as supermarkets, farming supply stores, butcheries and hair salons have opened in this region due to the influx of. These businesses provide employment opportunities, especially for youth.

USAID/Zimbabwe Mission Director Stephanie Funk has observed firsthand how banana farming expanded under USAID support.

“We are excited because this project has changed the lives of an entire community long after our assistance ended,” she said. “It is a true example of how agriculture-led economic growth provides long-term resilience and sustainability. Zim-AIED’s impact can be seen not just in individual farmers but in the entire Honde Valley community.”

The Zimbabwe Agricultural Income and Employment Development (Zim-AIED) project began in 2010 with the aim of improving food security and livelihoods for nearly 25,000 people in Honde Valley. It ended in 2015 with 600 farmers trained to grow and sell bananas. Other small farmers saw what happened and followed the lucrative trend. Today, 5,000 commercial farmers from the region are producing bananas for sale in the country.


About the Authors

Doreen Hove is a Development Outreach and Communications Specialist, Adam Silagyi is an Agricultural/Food Security Officer and Emma Siamena is a Program Specialist, all with USAID’s mission in Zimbabwe.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by USAID Frontlines and retrieved on 01/09/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


Seeds of Hope

By Neha Khator | USAID| January 8, 2018


Improved seeds and better access to water have proved a winning combination for these Indian farmers.

Three spokes in his back wheel have almost come off, but farmer Kunwar Munda adjusts his feet and continues to cycle. Even as the breeze rushes through his hair, it is never enough to match the scorching sun. Trees and the ground have been burnt stony brown and dry.

After almost an hour of cycling, Munda arrives at a tented location in Mungadih village in Angara block in the eastern state of Jharkhand in India.

This is the third Kisan Mela (Farmer’s Fest) organized by USAID, the Centers for International Projects Trust (CIPT) and Birsa Agricultural University (BAU) under the Sustainable Agriculture and Farmers’ Livelihood (SAFAL) Program. Hundreds of farmers from across 15 villages have arrived here. Munda parks his cycle next to a large tree and joins a party of known faces from his village as a few hundred farmers continue to pour into the tent.

Among the arriving farmers is 22-year-old Sapna Devi. Unlike Munda, she had to cross a forested mountain on foot to reach the event.

Farmers gathered under a tent to collect their bags of high-yielding rice seeds. / Neha Khator, USAID

The farmers wait in anticipation before officials from the USAID-supported SAFAL project began distributing 1,200 bags of high-yielding rice seeds to the hundreds of farmers that have congregated.

As names are called one-by-one, farmers queue to get their bags, each containing five kilograms of high-yielding rice seeds.

Farmer Kunwar Munda smiles after collecting his bag of rice seeds. / Neha Khator, USAID

As Munda collects his bag and rejoins his group, his face beams with a smile that’s unstoppable.

“I have heard so much about these seeds. Farmers in villages near mine have doubled their crop production since they got these. And even the drought last year did not affect them. It is my turn now,” he says.

Munda, like every farmer in Jharkhand, is trapped in a vicious and complex agricultural quagmire.

The state has a mountain topography, which means that the land here is rocky, uneven and less fertile.

“Out of the state’s entire land mass, only 35 percent is cultivable land,” explains Kamal Vatta, director of CIPT. “And even though Jharkhand receives monsoon rains twice the national average, the state’s [sloping] geography means that 90 percent of the rainwater quickly washes away, leaving the farmers distressed with severe water shortage and periodic droughts.”

To compound these problems, farmers here grow a traditional, low-productive rice variety using farming methods passed on to them through generations. And, like most farmers here, Munda owns only a small plot of land. His father upon his death divided his one acre of farmland among Munda and his four brothers, leaving only one-fifth of the land each to cultivate. As a result, Munda barely produces enough to feed his family beyond six months.

To break this cycle of extreme poverty and food insecurity, USAID organized the first Farmer’s Fest in June 2015. Through this project, 730 farming families were selected from across 10 villages to receive high-yielding rice seeds along with training in modern sowing and farming methods.

Farmer Sapna Devi after receiving her bag of rice seeds. Through this USAID project, 730 farming families were selected to receive high-yielding rice seeds and training in modern farming methods. / Neha Khator, USAID

But seeds alone couldn’t do the magic.

“In India, farming is still rain-fed and rain-dependent. To cultivate a good crop, farmers need assured access to water during the months of shortage. That is why we began building dobhas or small ponds,” says Vatta.

Adobha is a low-cost rainwater harvesting technique where a 10-by-10 foot pit is dug to trap the rainwater.

“Under the SAFAL project, CIPT and agriculture scientists from Birsa University used geospatial mapping to carefully identify rain and water stream patterns to build the dobhas in strategic locations. In the first year, we built 20 such dobhas — two each in the 10 selected villages,” adds Vatta. The farmers then draw the required amount of water from the dobha using a pipe powered by a pump.

The dobha built near farmer Sukhram Bediya’s farm / Neha Khator, USAID

Farmer Sukhram Bediya from Mungadih village proudly shows the dobha built an arms-length from his less than 1-acre farmland. Whereas before he was producing barely 150 to 200 kilograms of rice a year, after utilizing the higher-yielding rice seeds and dobha irrigation technique, his production shot up to 450 kilograms in only a year.

“After I harvested the rice, the project staff provided me vegetable seeds which again turned out very well. I sold the vegetables in the nearby weekly bazaar, and now I earn an average Rs. 1,000 ($16) every week just by selling vegetables,” says Bediya.

Currently, lush green colocasia leaves (cultivated for its nutritious leaves and root) and ripened tomatoes cover his field. These will soon be cleared to be sold at the weekly bazaar and will make way for his next rice crop.

Farmer Sukhram Bediya shows his field. / Neha Khator, USAID

“In the last two years, I have never left my fields empty. I’m producing something throughout the year now,” says Bediya, a new gold-coloured watch reflecting the sun as he smooths his crisp, light-blue shirt with his hands.

With rising farm production came rising incomes, and farmers like Bediya and Bharat Ram, who is from a nearby village, owe their newfound prosperity to the seeds and dobhas backed by USAID.

Bharat Ram’s daughter had just passed her Grade 10 exams the year he made Rs. 15,000 ($244) by selling a bumper cucumber harvest. “From that money, I paid Rs. 5,000 ($77) for her admission fees to enrol her into the Women’s College in Ranchi (the state capital).” Adds Ram with a tone of disbelief: “Who would’ve thought that cucumbers could one day pay for my daughter’s education.”

As these stories of transformed livelihoods travelled across villages far and wide, farmers like Munda and Sapna Devi began joining the SAFAL project. Like Bharat Ram, Munda too wants to send his sons to study in a private school in the city. “They are talented, bright boys and I know they’ll do well for themselves if they get the right education,” says Munda.

In the last two years, the project has built 320 dobhas in 30 villages in the Angara block alone and has enrolled over 2,100 farmers, providing them with access to water and seeds of hope.

The project has been so successful that the local state government has taken notice and plans to drastically ramp up dobha construction going forward.

“Based on the success of our program, the Jharkhand state government has now committed to constructing 500,000 dobhas across the state by 2022, collectively saving 12.5 million cubic meters of rainwater,” says Vatta. The Jharkhand state government’s efforts support the Indian Prime Minister’s flagship national goal of providing “water to every farm” and doubling farmers’ incomes and productivity.

Farmer Sapna Devi, though, has simpler dreams. With the increased farm income, she hopes to buy herself a red saree. “It would look good on me, right?” she asks. “Oh yes, you’ll look very pretty,” giggle her friends from behind.


About the Author

Neha Khator is a development and outreach communications specialist with USAID’s mission in India.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by USAID Frontlines and retrieved on 01/09/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


IITA commences confined field trials of transgenic cassava

Communications |December 28, 2017


The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) was recently granted a permit to carry out confined field trials (CFT) on genetically modified cassava (AMY3 RNAi transgenic lines). This research, carried out in collaboration with ETHZ Plant Biotechnology Lab in Zurich, aims to reduce starch breakdown in storage roots of cassava after pruning the shoots, prior to harvest of the crop. The objective is to obtain storage roots with lower postharvest physiological degradation without any loss of the nutritious starch.

Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is an important starchy food crop in sub-Saharan Africa as well as other tropical and subtropical regions. However, one of the challenges faced by cassava farmers is the high level of postharvest loss caused by rapid deterioration of the starch-rich roots which occurs naturally after harvesting. Although postharvest deterioration can be reduced by pruning the shoots of cassava plants without unearthing the roots, this poses a problem as the desirable starch stored in the root can be degraded by the plant after pruning, which in turn lowers the harvest yield and root quality.

To address this, a research project was conceived at ETH Zurich where cassava plants using cultivar 60444 were generated using RNAi as the tool to reduce starch breakdown in the root after pruning of the shoots. Extensive testing was carried out in greenhouses in Switzerland, where the plants were grown for three consecutive years.

“Our greenhouse experiments were an important first step, but they cannot substitute for genuine field conditions,” said Prof Samuel C. Zeeman of ETH Zurich. “Hence, it is necessary to grow the plants in a tropical climate such as that of Nigeria. IITA is an excellently equipped and well-staffed institute at which to perform such a confined field trial.”

The CFT permit was issued by the National Biosafety Management Agency in accordance with the National Biosafety Agency Act 2015 and is for the period 22 September 2017 to 31 December 2018. IITA adheres strictly to national and international biosafety standards and will ensure that these are enforced during the trials, which will be carried out within the IITA campus in Ibadan.

The research is a fact-gathering process to gain fundamental knowledge about starch metabolism in the storage root and about cassava as a crop. The cassava plants from the confined field trial are not destined for the market nor for commercial development and therefore will not be consumed. And according to national regulations, all plants will be destroyed within the CFT site after analysis.

As part of the experiment, regrowth of stem cuttings from the plants will also be assessed, since regrowth may also depend on starch stored in the stem. This is important since cassava is normally propagated by stem cuttings and not by seed.

The primary beneficiaries of the knowledge gained from this research (and its eventual application for cassava improvement) would be cassava farmers in Nigeria and other regions.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by IITA and retrieved on 12/30/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM accordingly.


What’s in store for Asian smallholder farmers in the Big Data hype?

By Camille Anne Mendizabal (World Agroforestry Centre) | December 29, 2017


Exploring how Big Data’s potentials can be used to enhance Asian farmers’ climate resiliency.

 

Smart tractors, agribots, survey drones, texting cows—these may seem like agriculture buzzwords, but with Big Data accelerating agricultural digitalization, these may soon come into fruition and be seen in farms in Asia.

What caused the hype?

The information age we are in now provided four technological milestones which paved the way for the digitalization of agriculture through Big Data.

First among these milestones is the improvement of peoples’ access to smartphones and data services. This provided opportunities for them to access agriculture information that could guide them in making farm-related decisions.

Secondly, the increased availability of cheaper smart agriculture sensors also helped farmers in monitoring their farms and adapting their practices to changing climatic conditions and environmental factors.

Another milestone that hastened the digitalization of agriculture is the improvement of the quality of satellite information and satellite images which led to better and more updated climate forecasts. Lastly, in our enhanced ability to analyse and interpret data provides better for support climate-smart agriculture (CSA) research and development efforts.

What is Big Data’s niche in CSA?

If the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) succeeds in utilizing Big Data, its biggest impacts can be seen in improving the following stages in the market-value chain: planning, selecting quality inputs, on-farm production, storage, and access to markets.

In the planning stage, Big Data is deemed most useful in helping farmers decide what to plant and when to plant it. It can also be used to guide farmers in selecting high-quality inputs. During production stage, applied data can potentially improve precision and adaptability of farming interventions.

Digitally warehouse receipts and digitally-enabled harvest loans may help reduce postharvest losses while they are stored. Moreover, the improved climate forecasts can also provide farmers with timely reminders and alerts on climate-related risks which are useful in monitoring farm operations and preventing yield loss.

Harnessing Big Data’s potential also enables the combination of climate forecasts with micro-insurance systems to further enhance farmers’ resilience to climate risks.

Big Data can also be sourced from social media. Through this, we can make the most out of the farmers’ groups established through social media platforms, Facebook posts and tweets by using them to build information database.

During the Joint CCAFS SEA-SA CSA Workshop in Hanoi, a special panel discussion tackled the potential of using Big Data to increase agricultural productivity, and at the same time manage climate-related risks. Photo: Duong Minh Tuan/ICRAF

Can smallholder farmers benefit from Big Data?

Despite the rosy picture that Big Data presents, it cannot be denied that we still have a long way to go before we can reap the benefits from it and before these benefits trickle down to smallholder farmers. As Andrew Jarvis, one of the Flagship Leaders of CCAFS said:

Big Data provides huge promise, but a handful of success stories for smallholder farmers.”

Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, CCAFS Southeast Asia programme leader, raised concerns about how using big data can be used further widen the digital divide. As of now, only commercial farms have access to technologies which can make sense of big data.

Unfortunately, 76% of the farmers in Asia are smallholder farmers, the majority of which do not have access to these technologies. Hence, the challenge now is for CCAFS to help make it work for this 76%.

Social differentiation in access and illiteracy in using these technologies also pose a challenge in this digitalization. Thus, CCAFS should work on downscaling information from forecasts to something more comprehensible and more relevant to farmers’ context.

How can CCAFS make Big Data work for smallholder farmers?

As of now, there is an insufficient publicly available data on agriculture which can be used to build a sustainable data ecosystem that scientists, extension workers and farmers can access. Building an information ecosystem on CSA that is more accessible to people and resolving data privacy issues could help address such problems.

Moreover, building the capacity of a new generation of agricultural scientists and field agronomists to enhance their skills not only in analyzing, and interpreting data, but more importantly in providing farmers with comprehensible, personalized, and actionable information should now be prioritized.

Creating an enabling environment for establishing public-private partnerships can also help resolve privacy issues in utilizing big data and can help maximize available technologies owned by public and private sectors to further develop information services for farmers.

If these abovementioned challenges are resolved, the rosy picture of modernized, climate-smart agriculture that now seems as a hype can finally be turned into reality.

Camille Anne Mendizabal is the junior communications specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre Philippines. She is also a communication consultant with the CCAFS SEA program.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the CCAFS-CGIAR and retrieved on 01/06/2018 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM Inc. accordingly.


Be Inspired: 10 of USAID’s Best


Here’s how our actions, ideas, and passions helped empower people and expand opportunity around the globe this year

From responding to Hurricane Maria to announcing a unique way to fund our efforts to reduce maternal and newborn deaths, USAID has been busy in 2017 ensuring our assistance to developing countries will have the greatest impact possible.

Check out this list of 10 stories from this year. While we can’t describe all our efforts around the world here, these examples show that aid works.

1. After the Hurricanes

On St. Martin, a member of Joint Task Force-Leeward Islands (center) and DART member Anne Galegor (left) help a local resident to fill a water jug with filtered seawater made portable through a reverse osmosis process. The U.S. military produced a total of 83,020 gallons of potable water for St. Martin during its mission. / Ricardo ARDUENGO/AFP

On Sept. 7, USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to lead the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response to Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria in the Caribbean — three of the six major storms to form during a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season. Our disaster experts never imagined they would end up riding out and responding to the devastation caused by three back-to-back hurricanes, including two Category 5 storms. But they did and quickly jumped into action to aid storm survivors. At its height, the DART comprised 54 people deployed to 11 countries. USAID also airlifted more than 185 metric tons to help nearly 84,000 people, representing the best of American generosity. Check out this infographic about the response.

2. Saving Newborns and New Moms

The BEMPU Hypothermia Alert Device was featured in TIME as one of the Top 25 Inventions of 2017. / BEMPU

USAID and our partners support innovators with groundbreaking ideas to ensure newborns and their mothers survive childbirth. One of these inventions — the BEMPU Hypothermia Alert Device — was featured in TIME as one of the Top 25 Inventions of 2017. The newborn temperature-monitoring wristband intuitively alerts caregivers if their newborn is losing too much heat, enabling intervention well before complications or death can occur. With our support, the device has helped an estimated 10,000 newborns. We are looking forward to 2030 when this and other innovations could potentially save 150,000 lives.

3. Feeding the Future

Feed the Future is helping to boost food security around the globe.

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s initiative to combat global hunger, announced this year that it is launching its next phase, partnering with 12 countries to focus on promoting long-term, sustainable development. This comes after helping a combined 9 million more people live above the poverty line and 1.8 million more children avoid the devastating results of stunting. Our goal continues to be addressing the root causes of hunger and poverty and helping communities be less dependent on emergency food assistance.

4. Wildlife Trafficking

An elephant is killed every 15 minutes; an average of 96 per day. USAID is committed to stopping environmental crime and protecting the wildlife and human communities that depend on them. / Lara Zanarini, Shutterstock

Protecting endangered species benefit more than the often majestic animals themselves. USAID’s work combating wildlife trafficking, environmental crime and mismanagement of natural resources strengthens the U.S. and international security, rule of law and global economic prosperity. This year we put together the video below to help strengthen law enforcement from parks to ports, reduce consumer demand for illegal wildlife products, facilitate international cooperation and build partnerships.

5. Fighting Hunger

Workers in Ethiopia offload a USAID food donation. The Agency is at the forefront of helping the United States respond to, counter and prevent complex threats and crises around the globe. / Petterik Wiggers, WFP

In four countries — South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen — more than 20 million people are at risk of severe hunger or starvation. In February, officials declared famine in parts of South Sudan, making 2017 the most food-insecure in the country’s history. But a massive humanitarian response by the U.S. Government and the rest of the international community helped roll back that designation just four months later. USAID is continuing to leverage its resources to help the people of South Sudan, and those living in Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen respond to natural and man-made disasters.

 

6. Women in Charge

Nanda Pok (left) is not only the owner of her own successful business in Cambodia but keeps busy by grooming other women to start their own businesses. She participated in a USAID-funded coffee production training program for female business leaders from Southeast Asia. She has shared with she learned with other women entrepreneurs in her country, helping them to start their own businesses. / Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID

USAID supports women entrepreneurs worldwide as catalysts for economic growth and inclusive development. Nanda Pok is not only the owner of her own successful business in Cambodia, but she also keeps herself busy by grooming other women to start their own businesses. Nanda participated in a USAID-funded coffee production training program for female business leaders from Southeast Asia. Pok believes that when women are economically-empowered, money flows back into businesses and towards the health, education, and well-being of families. And we couldn’t agree more. In Cambodia and across the globe, USAID helps women entrepreneurs realize their dreams.

7. When a Latrine Brings a New Lease on Life

A family works together to install their new Digni-Loo. The entire installation process only takes about 10 minutes. Photo credit: Melissa Burnes, USAID WASH for Health

We live in a water-stressed world. USAID is tackling this issue on a number of fronts, including in Ghana where we piloted installation and use of the Digni-Loo, a latrine that is simple to install, affordable, comfortable and easy to clean. More than 800 million people worldwide still defecate in the open. This results in billions of lost dollars from the global economy due to diarrheal illness and widespread threats to public health, including a heightened risk of global epidemics. This November the Agency and the U.S. State Department launched the U.S. Government Global Water Strategy, which outlines ways we can reach 15 million people with clean drinking water and 8 million people with sanitation services.

8. Smart Ways to End World Hunger

Baby Shikari is a rural rice farmer in Bangladesh. After receiving agricultural training, her family eats more nutritious food, shares some with their relatives, and sells the rest at the local market. / Morgana Wingard for USAID

Today, nearly one in 10 people around the world suffer from hunger, and that figure is rising. As we’ve learned over decades, there are no simple solutions. Supporting food security requires much more than filling people’s bellies. We can combat global hunger and malnutrition, but it takes a holistic approach to ensure long-lasting impact. Here are five ways USAID is investing in agriculture and food security to end hunger.

9. Investing in Change

USAID’s new development impact bond could save up to 10,000 moms and newborns. / Project Ujjwal

At the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, USAID Administrator Mark Green announced the launch of the Agency’s first health development impact bond, dubbed the Utkrisht Impact Bond after the Hindi word for “excellence.” Impact bonds are focused on outcomes and can leverage private investor capital to address some of the world’s greatest challenges. This impact bond — the largest and most ambitious of its kind — aims to reduce maternal and newborn deaths by improving the quality of maternal care in Rajasthan, India’s health facilities. It is expected to improve access to care for up to 600,000 pregnant women and save up to 10,000 maternal and newborn lives.

10. Meeting Nature’s Wrath with Resilience

Elsie Nambri is a teacher and community activist on Vanuatu. / USAID

When Mt. Yasur Volcano on Vanuatu emits ash, it sometimes damages the community’s crops. And widespread hunger follows. USAID is working with island residents to strengthen resilience so they can bounce back faster from natural disasters. Our work is also helping to elevate women to decision-making roles that are normally reserved for men in these communities. During a recent tropical cyclone, residents broadcasted early warnings on loudspeakers and mobilized disaster committees. This was the first time that the island prepared with concerted and inclusive measures. “This is our land, our ancestors’ land,” said Elsie Nambri, a teacher and community activist here. “Just as we have learned to live with Mount Yasur, I feel we are now ready for anything.”


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Smart fertilizer management and the quest for sustainable rice production


Pauline Chivenge and Sheetal Sharma   |  « PREVIOUS


Specific fertilizer recommendations in smallholder rice farming systems could increase crop production while reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Rice production relies on the use of synthetic fertilizers, especially nitrogen, in order to meet the challenge of rising demand for the commodity driven by population growth. However, the nutrient needs of rice crops are not constant and can vary with fields, seasons, and years because of differences in crop-growing conditions and management. Consequently, the proper management of nutrients for rice production needs to be adjusted to suit field and crop requirements.

Furthermore, the application of external nutrients constitutes the second most expensive rice production input, after labor. As a result, nutrient management is an important component for sustainable rice production while protecting the environment.

Too much of a good thing
The Green Revolution in the mid-20th century resulted in increased crop yields, including rice, in the developing world. Much of this was due to a combination of the introduction of improved varieties and more reliance on the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. However, although the Green Revolution was undoubtedly beneficial in improving food security, it was also associated with a dramatic increase in pollution due to the high use of agricultural chemicals.

Fertilizer recommendations in smallholder rice farming systems are often given as blanket recommendations, but this can lead to the overuse of fertilizers and inefficient use of nutrients. This created a need to find approaches to increase crop production while reducing pollution.

Location-specific information
Soil testing has been promoted to estimate location-specific fertilizer requirements based on the measurement of soil nutrient pools for a field or location. Soil-test methods attempt to measure the proportions of nutrients available for crops, but the amount measured may differ across soils with contrasting properties. Additionally, different tests for one nutrient often provide different results that can be expressed in a variety of ways.

Therefore, soil-test methods need to be calibrated to be used in a specific region. Soil testing requires rapid sequential sampling of soil, laboratory analysis, and timely deployment of a fertilizer recommendation with training for farmers before crop establishment. The effective implementation across hundreds of thousands of fields has been constrained by the high costs involved in sampling and analysis.

In developed countries, precision nutrient management is done using sophisticated technology to monitor variations in nutrient levels within large fields and across seasons. But, this is not applicable for small fields in Asia and Africa.

The site-specific nutrient management (SSNM) approach was developed in the 1990s to enable rice farmers to apply fertilizers and efficiently meet varying nutrient requirements of plants, thereby reducing fertilizer misuse associated with fertilizer subsidy.

The approach is used to calculate field-specific requirements for fertilizer nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for cereal crops based on scientific principles with the aim to increase nutrient-use efficiency. SSNM has improved rice yields compared with the farmers’ practice often based on blanket recommendations.

nmrice-smatphone
Nutrient Manager for Rice provides farmers in the Philippines with advice on best fertilizer through mobile phones. (Photo: IRRI)

Timing is everything
The SSNM approach, however, does not aim to increase or reduce the amount of fertilizer used. The increase in grain yield with lower amounts of fertilizer has been associated with the better timing of application, particularly for nitrogen. Farmers apply a greater proportion of the nitrogen fertilizer in the early stages of the crop, causing higher vigor during early growth, which does not translate into higher grain yield at maturity.

In recent years, SSNM has been identified as one of the options for sustainable intensification of rice production in Asia and as a climate-smart technology for increasing resource-use efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient runoff into water sources.

The SSNM approach relies heavily on information generated from nutrient omission plot trials that are used to estimate fertilizer requirements for major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium). Briefly, nutrient omission plots are small field trials in which adequate nutrients—except the nutrient of interest—are applied to a plot in order to estimate the supply of the omitted nutrient from indigenous sources such as soil, crop residues, irrigation water, biological nitrogen fixation, and atmospheric deposition. This is used to calculate the amount of fertilizer required to achieve a given yield target.

Phosphorus and potassium are generally applied at sowing or transplanting while nitrogen is applied at different crop stages. Thirty percent of the nitrogen is applied at transplanting and the rest is equally split at critical rice growth stages: active tillering and panicle initiation. Alternatively, the nitrogen splits can be determined using leaf color charts.

Rice production in Asia is largely done by smallholder farmers who often lack access to information. For sustainability, there is a need to develop tools that are accessible to farmers. Using the principles of SSNM, an information and communication technology decision support tool, Nutrient Manager, was developed to give field-specific fertilizer recommendations for smallholder farmers.

Nutrient Manager targets irrigated and rainfed lowland rice farmers with the aim to increase productivity and net income by USD 100 per hectare per season at the farm level. The tool has been widely tested and used in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, and has led to an increase in farm productivity and profitability. The tool was later developed into the Rice Crop Manager in the Philippines and India, which give climate-informed agro-advisory services to farmers, including the selection of suitable varieties. (See An app tailor-made for India’s rice farmers.)

Although the tool has effectively improved productivity in 80% of the locations where it has been tried, there is room to expand the fertilizer recommendations for a wider set of conditions. Additionally, dissemination of the tool needs to be boosted to give more rice farmers access to smarter and more sustainable fertilizer management.
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Dr. Chivenge is a soils and biogeochemistry expert at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Dr. Sharma leads IRRI’s research on the design, evaluation, and dissemination of soil and nutrient management technologies for the rice-based systems of South Asia.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the RICE Today and retrieved on 12/13/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM Inc. accordingly.


Moving closer to achieving climate-smart future for Southeast Asia


Written by Nguyen Thu Hang (Viet Nam News) on Dec 6, 2017


Fostering learning and sharing knowledge and experiences across Climate-Smart Villages and projects in Southeast Asia.

Based on the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)’ Southeast Asia’s vision, by 2025, the Southeast Asian region has achieved a stable food supply, and communities, especially those in the most vulnerable areas, have already improved their climate change resilience through the adoption of climate-smart technologies and practices.

By this time, institutional, public, and private sector’s capacities to implement measures to cope with climate change are already strong, and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures are fully integrated into both regional and national development plans. These goals guided the implementation of its flagship projects (FP) under the program.

 

On its third annual meeting, CCAFS SEA looked at the four flagship projects’ progress in terms of achieving the goals abovementioned since the second phase of the program started. The annual meeting was held on the 20th of November in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The beginnings of CCAFS

The regional agenda and research portfolio of CCAFS SEA are put into four flagships (FPs), FP1 – priorities, and policies for climate-smart agriculture, FP2-climate-smart technologies, and practices, FP3–low emission development ad FP4–climate services and safety nets.

The Climate-Smart Village (CSV) project serves as the convergence point of the flagship projects. These are implemented to improve farming communities’ resilience to challenges brought about by climate change which are expected to be worsened by the region’s rapid economic growth.

At present, the projects of CCAFS SEA are mostly located in three countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia because they are among the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the region. However, there are also other projects implemented in the Philippines and Indonesia.

CCAFS flagship leaders Dr. Phil Thornton and Dr. Andy Jarvis, together with CCAFS SEA regional program leader Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, facilitated a special session on the future projects’ focus. Photo by Duong Minh Tuan/ICRAF

CSV achievements

During the review conducted during the event, participants discussed the successes and challenges faced by the flagship projects and looked at how much of the desired outputs and outcomes have already been achieved. The key emerging outcomes from CSV sites in Vietnam, Philippines, and Laos, have also been highlighted in the workshop.

For instance, in the first stage of the CSV project in Guinayangan Village in the Philippines’ Quezon Province, the implementers had successfully engaged with local governments. In addition, the incorporation of climate-smart agriculture into the local government’s agriculture extension services is expected to have benefitted from 5,000 farmers in Guinayangan Village. Guinayangan is also recognized as a learning site that influenced the implementation and rolls out of the Philippines’ Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) program.

As for the project of CSVs in the Mekong Basin, initial outcomes include eight climate-smart agriculture practices and technologies have been implemented with the engagement of 100 local households. For example, in Vietnam’s Ky Son Commune, implementers have successfully coordinated with local governments, same with Guinyangan. They have also helped 2,000 farmers in achieving stable incomes and two neighboring villages in selecting 3 CSAs as priorities for scale-out: stress-tolerant rice varieties, dry season water storage, and pest smart practices for adoption during the first year of the project’s second phase.

Meanwhile, Rohal Suong CSV in Cambodia is now poised to be selected as a demonstration site under IFAD-funded ASPIRE project (worth about USD 50 million).

A special poster session was held to showcase the significant outputs and emerging outcomes of the various CCAFS SEA’s regional projects. Photo by Duong Minh Tuan/ICRAF

Points for improvement

Despite the successes of CCAFS SEA in the first phase and the first year of its second phase, several challenges are still needed to be addressed in the remaining years in the second phase.

The biggest concern to be addressed now pertains to the mobilization of funding for the projects because the total budget left is not enough to run all the projects while most of them will end next year.

Aside from this, Dr. Andy Jarvis, one of the Flagship Leader of CCAFS stated that there is a need to re-design the projects to make it fit with the situation. To address this concern, Dr. Godefroy Grosjean, an expert from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), suggested three ways they can improve mobilization of financial resources for the projects in the region.

According to him, the first step that CCAFS should do is to recruit a joint position with the Food and Agriculture Organization for a climate finance expert. Second, it is advised to develop new agenda on climate finance, including fiscal reform, evaluation of business models, and carbon pricing. The third step is taking new methodology such as behavioral economics, he said.

Dr. Leocadio Sebastian, the Regional Program Leader at CCAFS SEA, also pointed out the gaps between discussions and the reality in the field where the projects were implemented. He called for all stakeholders to suggest solutions in order to cope with these challenges so that the projects would be smoothly run in the coming years.

Nguyen Thu Hang is a reporter for the Viet Nam News.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published by the CGIAR and retrieved on 12/07/2017 and posted here for information and educational purposes only. The views and contents of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability and accuracy of the materials. If you need additional information on the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM Inc. accordingly.