Tag Archives: agriculture

The Status of Nepal: The Course for Moving Forward

It has been three months since the earthquake in Nepal. Over 9,000 people lost their lives and several more were injured.  The latest figures state that over 117,000 people are displaced from their homes and over two million children have been affected. Like many countries at this time, Nepal is in great need of humanitarian assistance and help in rebuilding efforts.  However, disaster relief is a short-term issue. The fate of the country in the long term must be considered by the international community.

Nepal was already listed as one of the poorest countries in the world prior to the earthquake, and moving forward they will not be able to break from their rank anytime soon. However, the country does have the means to be self-sufficient with the right help.

Nepal has many natural resources, particularly minerals like zinc and copper, but they are in limited supply and hard to get to. Agriculture is the largest source of income for the country and employs the most people. Many crops grow in the region but the most popular now are rice and corn. There is great potential for agriculture in the country if they can gain access to newer methods of farming and education.  Agriculture will not only help Nepal feed its people, but boost international trading potential.

Continue reading The Status of Nepal: The Course for Moving Forward

ONE Calls on African Countries to Commit to Increased Agriculture Funding

One of the things you will hear often when you travel throughout Africa and visit with government officials is the amount of money they have committed to lifesaving programs from HIV/AIDs national programs to malaria, maternal health, and agriculture programs. What is often hidden, however, is whether or not those governments actually come through with their financial commitments. Lip service only goes so far before those who are looking ask for hard numbers and transparency.

Warialanga Petro shows us how she learns about organic gardening at this horticulture learning center.
Warialanga Petro learns about organic gardening at this horticulture learning center. Tanzania Copyright: Social Good Moms

This week during the African Union Summit the ONE Campaign released the Ripe for Change: The Promise of Africa’s Agricultural Transformation report calling on African countries to commit to at least 10% of their national budgets on agriculture. According to ONE, only eight African countries have stood up to their commitment to spend 10% of their budgets on agriculture since 2003. Spending this amount is only reasonable given the more than two-third of Africans who make an annual living through small holder farming. Based on the report investing in agriculture is 11 times more effective at reducing poverty. ONE’s report is fitting giving the theme of this year’s summit: The Year of Agriculture and Food Security.

“Now is the time to get our leaders to commit to a big push toward implementing effective agricultural policies, scale up public investment in agriculture and catalyze private sector participation in agriculture development,” says ONE Africa Director Dr. Sipho Moyo. “Of the more than 400 million Africans living in extreme poverty, 70% live in rural areas that depend on agriculture. Remarkably, the multiplier effect of agricultural growth in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to be 11 times greater in reducing poverty than in other non-agriculture sectors, such as utilities and mining.

Visit ONE’s map that shows the countries that have surpassed or met its 10% commitment and those who have not at www.one.org/doagric/public-spending-on-agriculture.

* Additionally, sign ONE’s petition to on their Do Agric campaign to urge 46 African countries to do right by their citizens and invest more in agriculture. www.one.org/doagric.


Covering Agriculture, Poverty, and Hunger in Tanzania

In nine days I will be traveling to Tanzania as an International Reporting Project (IRP) Fellow to cover agriculture, poverty, and hunger.  As you may recall I also traveled to Zambia this summer to cover infectious diseases as an IRP fellow. This trip promises to be a eye-opener to me as I rarely concentrate on the subject. Typically, my concentration rests on women and girls, maternal and child health, and infectious diseases. Since so much of Africa depends on agriculture I look forward to uncovering how subsistence farming, agriculture, poverty and hunger affect daily life, particularly that of women and girls.

During our time in Tanzania we will be visiting several programs and sites that deal specifically with poverty and hunger alleviation through agriculture including a Feed the Future and One Acre Fund site.

According to Feed the Future, Tanzania (a country of 42 million) has a 68 percent poverty rate. Agriculture accounts for 25 percent of Tanzania’s GDP. Additionally, and even more importantly, agriculture employs over 75 percent of the population.

Tanzania has recently laid out a framework, the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP), to alleviate poverty and to create sustainable development of the economy. The goals of the framework consist of improving rural infrastructure, irrigation, mechanization, research and development, farm inputs, and increasing renewable natural resources. For example, Tanzania has an irrigation potential of 29.4 million hectares, but only irritates .33 million hectares, an area that statistically needs increased investment and an overhaul of goal setting and national improvements.

The Tanzanian government understands that to reach certain agricultural and economic benchmarks they must invest more of its national budget in the agricultural sector. In 2010 – 2011, only 7.78 percent of the budget was allocated to agriculture. Although the Tanzanian government pays for most agricultural investments there is some foreign direct investment in crop buying, but the investment numbers have been low due to supposed risks in investing in agriculture. While Tanzania is widely encouraging private investment in its agricultural sector, investments have been low. However, development partners including the Government of Japan, the World Bank, Irish Aid, International Fund for Agricultural Development and African Development Bank have pledge $315.5 USD towards improving Tanzania’s agricultural sector. The overall costs of the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty implementations, however, total $2.1 billion USD.

I look forward to exploring these issues while in Tanzania. You can follow along here on the blog as well as on Impatient Optimists, Babble, Huffington Post, as well as on our African Global Health and Development digital magazine.

I will be in Tanzania from September 30 – October 9.

Source: Creating an Enabling Agricultural Policy Environment

Photo: United Nations | Fred Hoy

Southern African Countries Face Hunger Threat

Malawi 71
Malawi  (Photo credit: al_green)

It sounds seemingly impossible, but there is yet another area of Africa that is under threat of a food shortage due to erratic rains during the growing season. While the Sahel is still experiencing food shortages, southern Africa is now joining ranks with the northwestern part of the continent.

According to the World Food Programme, 3.5 million people are living in drought-hit areas in Malawi, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe and are in need of food assistance. The hunger season lasts from December through March.

“Large numbers of smallholder farmers and their families are in the grip of what is set to be one of the harshest hunger seasons of recent years,” says Brenda Barton, WFP Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa. “With the help of  governments, donors and regional organizations, we’re mobilizing resources to help the most vulnerable, not only with food distributions but also with innovative solutions like cash transfers via mobile phones so people can buy their own food.”

 Malawi   Lesotho  Zimbabwe
1.8 million people are receiving food assistance 200,000 people are receiving food assistance 1.6 million people are receiving food and cash assistance

What can you do to help? You can donate securely on the World Food Programme web site. There is currently a $4 million emergency operation shortfall in Lesotho and a $14 million shortfall in Malawai, so every donation counts.

UN Photo/WFP/Phil Behan

[Book Review] The Last Hunger Season by Roger Thurow

The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of ChangeThe Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change by Roger Thurow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One does not have to be a wonk to understand the intricacies of global hunger as many might suspect. Roger Thurow, a senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former Wall Street Journal correspondent, proved in The Last Hunger Season that chronic, perpetual, and essentially senseless hunger in Kenya can easily be understood by anyone who reads this book. This less academic approach to analysing hunger helps put this worldwide problem on the agenda not only for those who work in the field of hunger relief, but also for those who care about people who do not have enough food to eat.

Roger Thurow
Roger Thurow (Photo credit: ONE Fr)

Thurow follows the lives of four smallholder women farmers in Kenya and writes in clear detail about the struggles these women and their families endure during the annual “wanjala” or hunger season. Each year these farmers must grow enough food to sell and consume and also navigate the volatile food markets during the recent economic crises where food prices have been high, but selling prices have been lower than usual. What you will find in The Last Hunger Season is despite these women’s hard work and dedication to their small farm plots economic, food and health struggles perpetually stand at their doorstep, and yet their hope, while wavering at times, is never broken.

One of the underlying themes in The Last Hunger Season is the dedication these women have for the future; that despite their current circumstances they forge every way possible for a better future not only for themselves, but for their children. These women understand that the only way out of the subsistence, smallholder farmer cycle of poverty is through education. By making sacrifices (even going without food and relying on black tea for meals) it ensures that at least one child in the family can work a job in an urban setting and lift the entire family out of poverty. It is, at times, difficult to read that some of the women would pay school fees instead of feeding their families even when their younger children are failing to thrive from malnutrition. However, the future to these women is brighter than filling their bellies and the bellies of their children.

It is important to note that the One Acre Fund, an NGO that helps small subsistence farmers yield larger crops through better seeds, fertilizers, education and working in cooperatives, is featured throughout the book. It is through the One Acre Fund that these women farmers are able to provide a better living for their families by producing more maize largely, but also growing other crops like beans. Larger crops means more food to sale at market prices and it also means more food to eat.

The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change is a optimal starting point for students and hunger advocates – both professional and lay – to better understand the hunger season in Africa and throughout the world and the importance of better agricultural techniques to a brighter and more productive future for these subsistence farmers.
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