America’s pledge is about more than pollution

By Karl Mathiesen in Bonn | Published on 13/11/2017 | 10:49 AM | http://www.climatechangenews.com/ping.js


US mayors and governors want to show the world they stand by US commitments, but to their African counterparts solidarity means cash

The presence of US cities and states at UN climate talks in Bonn has been big, brash and supercharged with billionaire cash.

In a bouncy castle-like dome on Saturday night, mayors, governors and activists repeated their mantra – “we are still in”. Branded America’s Pledge, the sideshow is an attempt to convince the world that the US will stand by its commitments to the Paris climate deal.

House music, champagne and confidence – paid for by Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and others – flowed in equally neurotic proportion.

Sunday morning, 9am, back to reality. Climate Home News is drinking black coffee with Solly Msimanga, the mayor of Tshwane – the municipal region that contains the South Africa’s administrative capital Pretoria.

Msimanga is standing on the lip of one of the great demographic shifts happening on earth, the urbanisation of Africa.

From 3 million today, Tshwane will double in size by the middle of the century, he predicts, although no-one really knows. Every year, 10,000 new families move into the city, many migrating from Zimbabwe or Mozambique.

From Bonn: Bloomberg demands seat at UN climate negotiating table for cities and states

This population shift is happening across the continent. Africa’s cities are expected to triple in size by 2050, sending energy demand and pollution soaring.

“There is a danger and an opportunity in how we plan going forward,” says Msimanga. “The more developed countries are dealing with monsters built years ago.” But he says Africa’s mayors could leapfrog those problems, if they heed the warnings.

That means reinventing the wheel. Many old modes of urbanisation are defunct and much of the knowledge of how to green a city is tied up in the giant retrofitting process only just beginning in the cobbled alleyways of Europe and suburbs of the US.

“It’s not going to be an easy task, it’s not going to be a cheap task,” says Msimanga.

Climate finance, which the rich world has acknowledged it owes to the poor for causing climate change, isn’t simply a justice issue. It’s also preventative.

By the end of this century, if all Africans have the carbon footprint of South Africans (who currently have the highest emissions on the continent) it would add 1C to the global temperature. How Africa’s cities grow will make a huge difference to all of us.

Report: Poor countries spending climate cash on rich world consultants

Yet under Donald Trump, the US has said it will renege on $2bn it has promised to the Green Climate Fund – the UN’s major conduit for climate funding. That money is the glue that holds the Paris deal together, yet it features little in the fine words offered by the US dissenters in Bonn. The mayors and governors are preoccupied with how much they can do to cut their own emissions without federal help.

In Jakarta, already a megacity, there is little public appetite for attempts to cut down on carbon emissions, says its deputy governor for spatial planning and environment Oswar Mudzin Mungkasa, especially if they pose a threat to the economy.

Every day, 3 million commuters grind in and out of the city. The resulting air pollution is tangible and has spurred the government to spend money on mass public transport.

Industrial pollution sources, like coal power, have been moved out of the city into surrounding countryside. But not shut down. It would be impossible for the city to talk seriously about spending public funds on cleaner alternatives, says Mungkasa.

“It’s difficult for us to reduce carbon pollution because it is something new. Because we are talking about people who are looking for a job,” he says.

Célestine Ketcha Courtès, the mayor of the small city of Bangangté in Cameroon and president of the Network for Locally Elected Women of Africa, says access to climate finance is essential as cities like her own prepare for the boom.

“But we can’t get it. Mayors, cities, they can’t get it,” she says.

Report: Seattle pledges support for climate fund barred by Trump

There are problems with the structure of the Green Climate Fund in getting money to the cities and institutions that need it and know best how to use it.

But there is also just $10bn pledged to the fund, which falls to $8bn with the US reneging.

The Centre for American Progress reports that each $1bn given to the GCF could prevent almost half a billion tonnes of carbon pollution each year and also help 55 million people be better prepared to face the impacts of climate change.

The need to address this side of America’s pledge to Paris is being discussed. In Massachusetts the legislature is working through legislation that will add a voluntary donation to the GCF’s sister fund, the Adaptation Fund, to resident’s income tax forms. The city of Seattle has passed a resolution to uphold its portion of the bargain.

And there was a conversation in the alternative US pavilion on Saturday, says Dan Zarilli, the mastermind of New York’s plan to go carbon neutral by 2050.

“It’s really hard for local or state officials to make those direct contributions, but there may be some kind of crowdsourcing there may be some other philanthropy that can fill some of that gap. Probably nowhere near to a $2bn federal void that’s just been left. But there is at least some conversation happening,” he said.

Climate Home News’ reporting at Cop23 is supported in part by the European Climate Foundation.


Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Climate Home News and was retrieved on 01/17/2018 and republished 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 INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at info@indeseem.org.


Women are the foundation for change in rural Ethiopia

January 9, 2018 | CIMMYT Feature

The idea that “Educating women/girls is nothing but a loss,” used to be a common sentiment amongst members of rural Ethiopian communities where the Nutritious Maize for Ethiopia (NuME) project works. Now one is more likely to hear “Women are the foundation for change.”

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)-led NuME project is reducing food insecurity in Ethiopia by increasing the country’s capacity to feed itself. The project is improving household food and nutritional security, especially for young children and women, through shifting gender norms and the adoption of Quality Protein Maize (QPM).

QPM refers to a type of maize biofortified with two essential amino acids through traditional breeding to improve the inadequacy of protein quality of the conventional maize grown widely by farmers. Consumption of QPM instead of conventional maize leads to increase in the rate of growth in infants and young children with mild to moderate undernutrition from populations in which maize is the major staple food.

According to the World Bank, women contribute 40-60 percent of the labor in agricultural production in Ethiopia and play an important role in income generation, as well as unpaid household tasks. However, many women face severely restricted access to resources and services and lack control over income, greatly hindering their participation in and benefit from new innovations.

Few programs have specifically considered gender relations when implementing new initiatives in communities, however, when NuME found lower participation of women in the community-based promotion and dissemination of QPM, adapted community conversations were launched in two selected project woredas, or districts – Shebedino and Meskan – for a nine-month pilot in an attempt to raise women’s role in the project.

Community conversation (CC) is a facilitated approach based on the principle that communities have the capacity to identify their societal, economic and political challenges; set priorities; mobilize human, physical and financial resources; plan for action and address their challenges sustainably. It focuses on people’s strengths, resources and how they relate to challenges or problems communities face.

The people benefiting from a CC-driven project set priorities and create a plan of action to mobilize resources to address their challenges sustainably. This helps communities develop a sense of ownership, use local resources and take responsibility to bring about sustainable changes.

Because this approach involves the entire community, it also includes traditionally marginalized groups like women and youth.

When NuME first started community conversations, seating was very rigid due to cultural and religious traditions, but as the sessions continue paving the way for more community awareness on issues around gender norms and stereotypes, the seating has become much more mixed.

A facilitator from Shebedino woreda said, “Participants can’t wait for the bi-monthly conversations and they never want to miss them. These exchanges have helped men and women to get together and discuss their concerns, which was not a common practice before.”

“Women have begun raising their voices during community conversation meetings, while they used to be too shy and afraid to speak and very much reserved about sharing their ideas in public,” a female participant from Meskan woreda reported.

Community conversation participants have started changing the traditional gender stereotypes.

Through debate and the sharing of opinions, and more active participation from women, community conversations have educated participants on gender inequality, its prevalence and harm and have allowed men and women community members to exchange ideas about nutrition more effectively.

The NuME project will continue into 2019. Read more about how CIMMYT is working to equally boost the livelihoods of women, youth and men here.

The NuME Project is funded by Global Affairs Canada with major implementing partners the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR), the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI), the Sasakawa Africa Association (SAA)/Sasakawa Global 2000 (SG2000) and Farm Radio International (FRI).


Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on CIMMYT and was retrieved on 01/18/2018 and republished 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 INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at info@indeseem.org.


African youth go digital to keep climate-smart farming alive

By Mantoe Phakathi in Bonn | Published on 13/11/2017 | 3:34 PM |http://www.climatechangenews.com/ping.js


Mobile applications and online forums help young Africans make a living from farming amid changing weather, delegates hear on the sidelines of climate talks in Bonn

African campaigners are promoting digital tools to keep young people involved in farming and prevent migration, delegates heard on the sidelines of climate talks in Bonn, Germany.

Youth unemployment averages 10.8% across sub-Saharan Africa, while nearly seven out of 10 young people earn less than $3.10 a day. Climate change impacts like drought and flooding are making it harder for farmers to get by, with large numbers making a risky journey to seek better opportunities in Europe.

In response to this challenge, the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN) is bringing young people together through digital and conventional means to share knowledge about climate-smart agriculture.

According to Amanda Namayi from CSAYN Kenya, the internet has helped the youth form alliances across 28 countries to promote sustainable farming. “This initiative started in Africa but it is now spreading to other parts of the world,” she said.

CSAYN is promoting activities associated with farming such as marketing, accounting and manufacturing to help the youth realise that agriculture can also be done by those with university qualifications.

“The youth is more engaged in social media and they’re into technology, which are the tools they’re using to get involved in farming,” said Catherine Mwangi, a researcher from Kenya.

That includes creating mobile applications to inform farmers about weather patterns and help them make decisions on what to plant and when.

Young people are also using online forums to share experiences and educate one another, Mwangi said. “We need to rethink the way we engage the youth in farming… The online forums have given us an insight into what challenges the youth faces and the solutions.”

Analysis: For Africans, America’s pledge is about more than pollution

The other problem that African youth in agriculture face is a lack of land rights. This, according to the African Union Commission (AUC) advisor in climate change and agriculture, Ayalneh Bogale, is caused by the complexity of land tenure systems in African countries.

“The AUC is helping African governments to come up with policies to make land more accessible to those who want to use it for farming,” he said.

He also encouraged the youth to engage in rehabilitating damaged land, which may be eligible for climate finance.

Climate Home News’ reporting at Cop23 is supported in part by the European Climate Foundation.


Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Climate Home News and was retrieved on 01/17/2018 and republished 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 INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at info@indeseem.org.


‘Bad-ass business women’ bring solar empowerment to Nepal

By Lucy EJ Woods | Published on 15/06/2017 | 4:57 PM |


NGO that helps women overcome cultural taboos and start their own clean energy businesses to be awarded prize in London ceremony

“People talk here when a woman talks to men. They say things like how a woman should not leave the house,” says Runa Jha, a solar entrepreneur in Janakpur, eastern Nepal. “But I don’t care.”

A widow, Jha lives in one room with her three teenage children. In rural Nepal, widows are treated as social outcasts. They are seen as predatory, potential husband-stealers and their interactions with men are frowned upon.

“You should do what you want,” says Jha, who received training from Empower Generation – an NGO that on Thursday will be awarded a £20,000 Ashden award for promoting the role of women and girls in the clean energy sector.

Another Empower-trained solar entrepreneur, Lalita Choudhary, also faced cultural barriers. “Individuals are going to say all sorts of things” about business women in rural Nepal, she says. Choudhary lives not too far from Jha, in Lahan, Siraha, just 17km from the Indian border. Most people in the area work in agriculture, growing rice and corn or tending to goats and cows.

Runa-Jha-solar-shop-credit-Lucy-EJ-Woods-1
Runa Jha, in her solar shop in Janakpur, eastern Nepal (Photo: Lucy EJ Woods)

In many communities, women “hide their faces and do not talk to men” and “are not really allowed to get a job,” says Abhilahsa Poudel, Empower Generation’s communications coordinator.

But solar power’s effect on village life is inarguable. Its allows for cleaner home environments, with light into the evenings and the ability to charge a mobile phone.

The social benefits that flow from the women-run solar businesses, means that Jha and Choudhary have become admired for their work by both men and women in their communities. “Everyone wants to be like [Choudhary] and to work like her,” says Poudel.

Jha and Choudhary are two of the 23 women that NGO Empower Generation has trained to be renewable energy entrepreneurs, who in turn, employ and manage a further 170 sales agents. Some of the agents are men, but most are aspirational young women, creating a ripple effect of empowerment through sustainable, profitable employment.

“Before, women were not allowed outside the house, and were told not to study as they have to do the housework,” Jha says.

Empower Generation mentors and supports women registering their own businesses to sell solar lanterns, solar home systems, clean cook stoves and water filters. The trainee entrepreneurs are given lessons on climate change and the adverse effects of fossil fuels, becoming leaders in their community for promoting renewable energy and environmental awareness.

Climate Weekly: Sign up for your essential climate news update

As women do not traditionally work in energy, Empower Generation’s work aims to “really move the needle on how women are valued,” and change the rural Nepalese culture of women being considered to be the property of their husband’s families, says Empower Generation co-founder Anya Cherneff.

The “priority is to create bad-ass business women,” says Cherneff.

Since owning and running a solar business, Jha has taken on other leadership roles, including leading a community clean-up group. “I feel like I want to lead now; I like to lead,” says Jha.

Many of the women working with Empower Generation apply their skills and confidence to further business ventures and other arenas of public life. Choudhary is currently running as a candidate in local government elections, and Sita Adhikari, Empower Generation co-founder is now a United Nations adviser.

The Ashden awards ceremony on Thursday will host former US vice-president Al Gore as keynote speaker.

Adhikari said that receiving the award “encourages us to work even harder to cultivate more women entrepreneurs who are providing reliable, affordable clean tech solutions.”


Article Disclaimer: This article originally appeared on Climate Home News and was retrieved on 01/17/2018 and republished here for information and educational purposes only. The views, contents, and materials of the article remain those of the authors. We will not be held accountable for the reliability, accuracy, and consistency of the republished article. If you need additional information about the published contents and materials, please contact the original authors and publisher. Please cite the authors, original source, and INDESEEM INCORPORATED accordingly. If you have any question or concern, please send us an email at info@indeseem.org.


Welcoming Dr. B. Joseph Akinwumi

Dear Colleagues,
Please join me to welcome a good friend, academic, pharmacist, medical technologist, and healthcare professional B. Joseph Akimwumi. Our friendship and professional connections started at Clark University. At Clark, Joseph completed several academic courses in computer and information technology with an emphasis in healthcare delivery, control, and management before he pursued his Doctoral in Pharmacy at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences (MCPHS) located in the City of Worcester, Massachusetts.
Joseph has also worked in the mental health and social services sectors and is also a Certified Medication Administration Professional (MAP). He has a passion to see healthcare delivery, administration, and management effective and efficient in developing countries with limited or no existing healthcare and pharmaceutical infrastructure in an effort to provide universal healthcare everyone irrespective of their social class and minority categorization. Joseph, as a key member of the Global & Public Health team, will work and report to Temitayo Akinbola, Director of Global & Public Health and Mairi McConachie, Global & Public Health Technical Specialist.  In this role, Joseph and others will develop key strategies to advancing health and sanitation across all of our projects areas and partners in an effort to collaborative achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals centered around health and human wellbeing.

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.


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.


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